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Q + A with Raymundo Muñoz

"Rush Before the Reaping" artist Raymundo Muñoz was born and raised in El Paso, TX, but has made Colorado his home since 1999. He received a B.S. in Biology at UCD and is a self-taught artist specializing in linoleum block relief printmaking and other drawing media. Raymundo is inspired by the chaos-order dynamic and how it plays out in our social interactions. In his latest series on display at Alto Gallery, the artist's detailed pen and ink drawings are composites of nature scenes and people at art gallery receptions.


1) Where are you from? Where do you work/reside?

I was born and raised in El Paso, TX, but moved to Colorado in 1999. I reside in Erie, CO, but my day job is in Denver. Most of my art I make at home in the basement with my little orange cat bugging the hell out of me.


2) Did you attend art school? Or are you self-taught?

Self-taught. I've always loved making (and taking apart) things. I was obsessed with the Renaissance masters when I was a kid (probably thanks to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), so I spent a lot of time copying their works. And that progressed into making comic books with my buddies. Then my uncle gave me his old guitar and a few guitar magazines, and that got me started down another path. And things kinda just kept building from there.

I had been doing pen and ink drawings like the ones in "Rush Before the Reaping" a few years ago, and someone suggested I get into intaglio printmaking. So, I researched that, found it to be cost-prohibitive, and ended up finding a much cheaper alternative: linocut. And I've been doing that mostly.

My philosophy is that if you're interested in doing something, you should do it. All that stands in your way is time, energy, and willpower. If you boil it down that way, you can teach yourself anything. Passion and patience go hand in hand.


3) How would you describe your style? What's your medium/media of choice?

I think I'm still finding my style, but I'm starting to get a handle on what comes out of me naturally. The more work I do, the more refined my idiosyncrasies become. I tend to favor clean compositions that have a load of meticulous detail. Often monochromatic.

As far as printmaking goes, I carve battleship grey linoleum blocks and print them by hand/spoon onto good French or Japanese paper. I like using Caligo Safe-Wash inks, too. I love most drawing media, but I prefer using charcoal, pen and ink, and oil pastel.


4) What themes/philosophies/aesthetic principles guide your work?

I explore the chaos-order relationship quite a bit, usually through the lenses of nature and social interaction. And that's kind of me in a nutshell anyways. Going back and forth between feeling like I have a handle on things and feeling like I'm on the cusp of a big black hole. As an artist/creator, though, I have a duty to stare into those depths, to lower myself in, touch solid ground, and climb back out with stories to tell. I aim for my work to be physically simple, but conceptually multi-layered.


5) Are you associated with a gallery? Co-op? Collective?

I am part of Birdseed Collective. I've been involved with them informally over the years through various projects, but last year I became a full-fledged member. Being a natural loner, sometimes it's hard to work so intimately with others, but I've found the rewards to be great. It's hard doing anything on your own, and having a strong support system makes a huge difference.


6) What does your creative process consist of? Any rituals/habits/superstitions?

It starts with research and note-taking, then I scribble some ideas as words and pictures, kinda just let my mind wander, until an image jumps out at me. One small thumbnail leads to a slightly bigger one, then I jump into the final piece. Much of my work is based off photos I take, so there may or may not be some Photoshop manipulation for composition. Lots of drawing. Throughout the process, I listen to music based on my mood and the mood of the piece. Oftentimes the music finds a way into the work itself.

When I'm printmaking, I take time to smell the fresh linoleum, ink, and paper. Wonderful, mysterious scents. I try to carve the prettiest coils I can (as you carve linoleum, a coil of material often forms and grows if you keep a straight and even line), and I collect the shavings until I'm done carving the block. I hold them in my hands and reflect on loss and creation. And when I actually press paper to block, I do this with my hands and say a small prayer. I'm not a religious person, but ritual can be a powerful thing, and it's a way to put more love and respect into your work.


7) What is the biggest challenge you face in making art? How do you work through it?

Overthinking is a constant challenge. Over the years, I've realized that most of my best work came about in flashes of inspiration with little analysis. There's freshness, honesty, and mystery there that's hard to replicate and easy to drown if too much time is spent on the process. I'm starting to trust in that feeling more and more, and it helps if I set insanity-inducing deadlines. It's a flirtation with chaos, and it's scary, but it kills my pride and perfectionist tendencies, and forces me to go all in.


8) What drives you to create? What do you hope to achieve?

I'm a creator. It's what I am. It's the deepest, most powerful drive in me, and I only want to do my best in expressing that drive. To tunnel deeper and deeper, and come out the other side. On a grander level, though, I aim to show that art is a bridge that spans time and distance and that it's there to connect us all.


9) What is your earliest art-related memory? What/who gave you the art bug?

So many memories and people...going to craft stores with my aunt and coming home with little ornaments and objects to paint, listening to heavy metal and reading comic books with my uncle, sneaking into my grandpa's shed that was full of paper scraps and good pencils.


10) Most influential artists? Dream collaboration?

Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dali, David Bowie, Trent Reznor, Richard Serra, Autechre, Richard D. James. They kinda made me who I am as an artist. I get to collaborate with talented artists a lot nowadays, so in a way I'm already living the dream.


11) What especially fascinates you outside of art? Any secret talents/passions?

I love science. Lately I've been reading a lot about developments in space travel and physics. Off and on, I'm trying to learn Russian and some computer programming. I love taking things apart, seeing what makes them tick, and haphazardly reassembling them. I love building stuff -- recently, a couple work benches for the studio.


12) Rep your hood/haunts.

In the summer, I like spending time strolling around Boulder's hiking trails and having a nice pint wherever I can. Actually that last part is year-round. I spend a lot of time at various art venues around town. Otherwise, I'm a classic homebody. If I had a mountain cottage I could retreat to, you'd never see me.


13) What role do you feel you play/aim to play in Denver's art community?

I aim to identify talent and help develop it through coaching, critique, support, and promotion. I've had a few people in my life that did that for me, and I hope I can carry that on in whatever ways I can, and I hope I can inspire others to do the same.


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